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A Chilling Moment in the Debate

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While it may be difficult to discern a clear winner in last night's presidential debate, there was a clear loser: the audience. It was shocking when Brian Williams began a question about the liberal application of the death penalty in the state of Texas. Here is the transcript:

WILLIAMS: Governor Perry, a question about Texas. Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you...

(APPLAUSE)

That's right. The audience erupted in applause. It was chilling.

\"Not Really Catholic\"

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"If they don't believe what the church teaches, they're not really Catholic," incoming Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput told an interviewer when asked about pro-choice politicians receiving communion.

Of course, in a sense, Chaput is right. We are, as Catholics, bound to believe what the Church teaches. But, the either/or way the archbishop speaks about the matter makes no sense of that verse from the Gospel of Mark (9:24) in which the blind man at Bethsaida asked the Master for help with his unbelief. Chaput does not encourage those who struggle with their unbelief, he dismisses them and tells them who they really are. They are not really Catholics. Hah! He showed them.

Last Night's GOP Debate

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Last night’s GOP presidential debate from the Reagan Library in California was understandably focused on the two front-runners, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. They were placed at the center of the stage, they were the first to get questions directed to them, and the moderators continually went back to them, providing them more airtime than the others. This morning’s Post headline reads “Perry and Romney spar in GOP debate.”

The GOP contest is not, in fact, a two person race even if the media is trying to turn it into one. You may recall that in 2008, Rudy Giuliani was leading all the national polls and at the end of the day, he garnered precisely one delegate to the GOP convention. Or, on the Democratic side, you may recall an email sent out by the Howard Dean campaign in the weeks before the Iowa caucuses that read (if memory serves) “As we bring this campaign to a successful conclusion…..” Of course, in Iowa, Dean and Dick Gephardt were so unrelentingly negative in their ads attacking each other, that John Kerry stepped over their wreckage and won the caucus, Dean gave his scream, and the rest is history.

The Good Labor Is Still Doing

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We all know that we would not have weekends if it were not for organized labor. We also know that wages, benefits and working conditions for all workers would not be as good as they are but for the efforts of organized labor. Many do not like to admit it, but the truth is that as the percentage of workers in unions has declined, those wages, benefits and working conditions have also.
Ray Abernathy has a post up about the good labor is still doing. Well worth the read.

Justice Dept Win for Religious Freedom

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Yesterday, the Justice Department announced a settlement in its case against Henrico County, Virginia. According to a press release from the Justice Department:

The case arose from the county’s denial of a 2008 application from a Muslim organization for construction of a mosque. The government’s complaint, which was filed with the court along with a consent decree resolving the lawsuit, alleged that the county’s denial of the rezoning application was based on the religious bias of county officials and to appease members of the public who, because of religious bias, opposed the construction of a mosque. The complaint further alleged that the county treated the Muslim organization differently than non-Muslim religious groups that regularly have been granted similar rezoning requests.

As part of the settlement, the county has agreed to treat the mosque and all religious groups equally and to publicize its non-discrimination policies and practices. The county also agreed that its leaders and various county employees will attend training on the requirements of RLUIPA. In addition, the county will report periodically to the Justice Department.

New Evangelization Watch: Sherwood Pictures

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Yes, I know that Sherwood Pictures is the product of a Christian Church that is not Catholic. But, Timothy Dalrymple looks at how one Baptist Church is trying to create culture by making Christian movies. A faith that does not generate culture is a dead faith. And, no one should be more aware of that than us Catholics: Western culture would look pretty slim if you removed the Catholic influences upon it.
So, why is one Baptist Church in Georgia succeeding at producing movies and the Catholic Church in the U.S. with its vast array of Catholic colleges and universities, is not? Because "Catholic Identity" has usually been reduced to banning pro-choice speakers from campuses. Because our ideas about "Catholic Identity" are crimped. Because, for complex historical reasons, we have been so eager to gain access to mainstream culture, our Catholic writers and actors and producers have been willing to leave their catholic sensibilities at the door. Not all, of course. Where would we be without Flannery O'Connor? Who was not moved by "Brideshead Revisited"?

No Clergy on 9/11

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Bill Donohue, the blowhard head of the Catholic League, has attacked the decision of Mayor Michael Bloomberg not to include clergy in the city's official commemoration of the attacks of 9/11.

I do not often find myself in agreement with Mr. Donohue, but he is undoubtedly right on this score. The exclusion of clergy from the commemoration of an event that more than any other in recent years drove Americans to their knees is absurd. Concerns about which religions to include are also absurd. At presidential inaugurations, some clergy are included and not others. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 there were plenty of inter-faith services. I do not perceive, as Donohue does, a specific insult to Catholics or even to religious people in general in Bloomberg's decision. He probably just sees religion as a contentious issue and would prefer to stay away from it.

Obama: Find Your Inner Hedgehog

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President Obama is not a hedgehog, he is a fox. The metaphor comes, via Isaiah Berlin’s essay on Tolstoy, from a fragment of Greek poetry that read: The fox knows many things, the hedgehog knows one big thing. But, tomorrow night, when he presents his jobs plan to a joint session of Congress, the President will need to find his inner hedgehog if it is there, and fake it if he isn’t.

The question people have been asking is whether or not the President will present a “big” plan, a bold new idea to solve the nation’s unemployment woes. In normal times, the remedy for an economic downturn is to propose large government spending programs that will put people to work, pumping money into the economy at a time when, for a variety of reasons, the private sector is unable or unwilling to do so. But, these are not normal times, these are Tea Party times and because Obama spent the previous several months playing on the Tea Party’s turf, finding ways to cut government spending, he will have a hard time changing direction now. This is why his proposals must be both big and simple. His proposals must have a hedgehog quality.

New Evangelization Watch: Bishop Hugh Gilbert, OSB

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Keeping an eye out for examples of what we mean by the "New Evangelization" a friend sent me these remarks by Bishop Hugh Gilbert, OSB, who was ordained as the bishop of Aberdeen last month. Once you get past the "thank you" section, Bishop Gilbert nails it, explaining in vivid imagery what is meant by the New Evangelization. Keep an eye on this guy, especially if he is preaching anywhere near you!

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